On March 3rd, 2016 My husband, Carl and I took ownership of our new Seawind 1160 Deluxe in a little bay at the mouth of the Saigon River, with our destination set for Darwin, Australia. We spent ten years preparing for this event – our escape from the day-to-day redundancy of work and land life through blue-water sailing about the world. We chose to begin with a delivery skipper, Alec Warring, who for three weeks created a sailing and living environment of safety through his experience. Today we are sharing our experience of taking delivery and our first big cruising adventure which we hope proves interesting and inspirational.
Our adventurous lifestyle of canyoneering, backcountry skiing, igloo camping, and extreme mountain biking provided the foundation for our future cruising life. And fittingly, we were married on an America’s Cup sailboat in Washington State’s Puget Sound in August 2005 with the goal of escaping within ten years. So like many sailors we planned thoroughly (or thought we did). Taking delivery in Asia can be challenging because of foreign customs, language and the region’s limited yachting infrastructure. However, delivery in Vietnam offered a number of advantages in terms of reducing delivery costs to the United States and maximizing our sailing experience in the South Pacific, so we set ourselves the challenge of tackling Asia first while getting to know our boat along the way.
Having a delivery skipper also introduced a new personality and new systems to our daily lives, which was naturally challenging and unexpectedly added to our adventure. Our delivery skipper, Alec had direct experience as an owner of a Seawind 1160. So we eagerly anticipated learning the boat’s systems and developing standard operating practices, but we were not afforded the luxury of much time to take these steps. We had committed to a tight schedule, and so this untried little team was immediately forced to function as a high performance outfit upon disembarking Vang Tau. Were we to do it again, spending more “training” time with our skipper would be worthwhile.
Worthwhile, because four hours into the voyage at around 8 p.m. SKY POND slammed into something submerged in the dark commercial fishing waters outside of Vang Tau. The impact was so great, it knocked me off the bed as I slept. Carl and Alec immediately checked bilges for water, tested the steering for a bent rudder, and checked the transmission and props – all OK. Still shaken, we determined there were no failures in the systems and continued on our passage and to recheck everything in the daylight. Two hours later, while traversing the shipping lanes in choppy seas, our screecher was pulled about a third of the way out of its loose furl at its head by a 25 knot wind gusts. Alec and Carl went to the foredeck with lifelines attached to wrestle the screecher down. I eased out the halyard and manned the helm and started the engines to point into the wind. A gust lifted Carl off the deck and he was forced to let go, which in turn forced me to let the halyard go and it slipped through the mast, the sail sucking into the water between the hulls. Alec shouted to me to put the engines into neutral to avoid tangling the halyard in the props while he and Carl heaved the heavy wet sail onto the deck and lashed it down on the trampoline to inspect in the morning light. I only hoped in this crisis that I had correctly shifted into neutral since I had little experience of driving this yacht.
From Suspense to Surreal
Sailing through the South China and Java Seas those first few days now seems surreal. After settling in and getting past the initial challenges, we were treated to natural beauty: dolphins, sharks and sea snakes, brilliant full triple rainbows, and spectacular sunsets. From SKY POND’s galley, I could see the occasional bright green sea snake slither past and dolphins leaping alongside. The daytime skies became supremely bright early in the day as the equator provides no respite from sun or heat. The intensity was a constant. Always in the distance, the clouds themselves looked like pink and tan islands rising from the sea. They rarely produced rain, or useful wind, but created extraordinary brilliant sunsets. The seas at night were so tranquil, with the moon and stars reflecting off the surface. This is what we hoped for when taking delivery in Asia.
The reality was that the boat had a finite amount of food, fuel and water. Our water maker, which we carried with us in luggage from the US, could not be installed in time before the departure as planned – rather we brought it with us to for installation once we reached Australia. Resources needed to be meted out based on our near windless progress to our first destination of Darwin, calculating and recalculating how many more days remained in the journey as compared to our limited resources. What we didn’t realise was that the water and diesel gauges were only an indication of actual consumption.